How old does my child have to be to fly alone?
An unaccompanied minor (UNMR) is any child aged between 5 and 11 (not yet 12 years of age) who is flying by themselves and not traveling with a parent, guardian or immediate family member.
Children younger than five are not permitted to fly by themselves. Children aged 12 and over are considered ‘adults’ by airline ticketing standards, but parents can specifically request an unaccompanied minor service for children aged 12 to 15.
These age brackets are fairly consistent for most airlines, but it’s important to contact your Flight Center consultant to ensure your child qualifies as an unaccompanied minor.
Do I have to book my child as an unaccompanied minor?
Yes. You must make a specific booking for your child if they are traveling by themselves and meet the unaccompanied minor age requirements. Young passengers may not be able to get onto the aircraft if they are alone do not have the required unaccompanied minor booking.
Not all flights accept unaccompanied minors, so it’s important to check with your airline or booking agent first. There are also restrictions on flights with transfers or stopovers which may prevent your child from being able to travel by themselves.
How to Book
How do I make an unaccompanied minor booking?
All Flight Center consultants are able to handle the finer details and make a booking for your solo voyager. There's a bit more to it than just booking the airfares, so it's a good idea to have a consultant liaise with an airline on your behalf so you can focus on getting your youngster ready for their big journey.
What documentation do I need for an UNMR booking?
Every airline has special unaccompanied minor travel documentation that parents or guardians must complete prior to flying – this includes information on the ‘sender’ and ‘receiver’ who will accompany the child at departure and arrival points.
Adults at both the departure and arrival points will need to present identification that matches up with the documentation given to the airline in order to send off or pick up the young guest.
Do unaccompanied minor bookings cost extra?
There is usually a specific fee for unaccompanied minors, which varies between domestic and international routes and carrier. Airfares are generally charged at an adult price although this may be different at the discretion of your airline.
Only a certain number of unaccompanied minors are permitted on board at one time (usually fewer than six), so it’s important to secure your child’s booking as soon as possible.
At the Airport
Ensuring a smooth journey gate-to-gate
Young passengers flying by themselves are well looked after by both ground and cabin staff. At the airport, you must accompany your child through check-in and to the gate where a cabin crew member will meet you. Unaccompanied minors receive priority boarding so the crew can help them get settled, stow away their cabin baggage and answer any questions they might have.
Step-by-step at the airport:
- Arrive at the airport and make your way to the check-in and bag drop counters
- Have your personal ID and your child's ID ready, plus sender/receiver details to confirm with the airline staff
- After your child has received their boarding pass, go to the gate at least 30-minutes prior to departure
- A flight attendant will meet you at the gate and will go through paperwork before boarding
- The attendant will accompany your child on board and get them settled before other guests
- Wait for the aircraft to depart in case it has to return to the gate for any unexpected reason
Don’t forget to bring:
- The required unaccompanied minor travel documentation
- Medical clearance forms if necessary
- Your child's identification (birth certificate, passport or ID card)
- Comfort items to make the journey less stressful for very young guests
On the Flight
Where will my child be sitting?
Unaccompanied minors are usually seated close to the cabin crew areas (the flight attendant jump seats near the exits or food service area), close to bathrooms and next to a vacant seat where possible.
What is the flight attendant's job with UNMRs?
The crew often devote a great amount of attention to their younger guests, making it a priority to ensure they are feeling secure and comfortable during the journey. Flight attendants check on UNMRs multiple times during the flight.
When the attendant accompanies the child on board they will show them to their seat, explain the entertainment controls such as volume and channel selection, show them where the bathrooms are located and explain how to use the call button.
In-flight food options for young guests
It’s a good idea to make sure your child has some cash with them if they are on a flight that doesn’t have a meal service or, alternatively, pack them some ready-to-eat snacks to take on board. Snack items available on in-flight menus often include fresh sandwiches, muffins, crackers with cheese, cookies, chips, chocolate, juice and soft drink.
If your child is traveling internationally, long-haul or on a domestic flight that includes a meal with the airfare, you are able to specify a kid's meal as well as any dietary requirements when you make the booking or no later than 24-hour before the flight. Ask your Flight Center consultant about meal options when you book the airfare for your young jetsetter.
Sugary food and drink can sometimes cause motion sickness, especially if your child is already a little nervous. Make sure they have their own bottle of water to keep hydrated during the flight.
Kid-friendly entertainment options
When it comes to on-board entertainment, you are often able to specify on the unaccompanied minor forms whether you consent for your child to access the TV, movies and music options if free entertainment if provided.
On domestic or international flights that have in-flight entertainment, there is usually a selection of children's programs and movies either delivered via seatback screens or hand-held devices which can be hired at a cost.
Pack some items in your child's cabin baggage to keep them occupied during the flight, such as colouring-in books, portable DVD players or travel-friendly games they can play by themself. If your child has their own personal electronic device, here are our five favorite apps for learning along the way:
- Pettson's Inventions
- Endless Alphabet
- Squeebles Maths Bingo
- How it Works: Machines
- Music Matching with Lisa Loeb
Make sure your child has their headphones or earphones if they are going to be listening to a personal electronic device.
Arriving safe and sound - what to expect
Possibly the most important part of the journey is your child’s arrival at their destination. The unaccompanied minor forms require you to list a parent or guardian who will be picking up your little one at the gate once they have landed. and it is vitally important to ensure the same person who is listed on the form is the person who picks the child up.
Due to legal reasons, airlines are not permitted to hand over a child to someone who is not listed on the documentation or without ID, even if they are a family member.
Unaccompanied minors will be the last off the plane. The flight attendant will deliver them to their waiting parent or guardian along with the forms that were signed at the start of the journey from the departure point. These forms are again signed by the attendant and the receiver who is collecting the child, completing the final leg of their journey.
If there's a chance someone other than the listed adult may have to pick up your child, list all prospective ‘receivers’ on the form just in case.